Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) FM 21-20 / TC 3-22.20 Training Info

5-2 Diet and Exercise

Diet and Exercise
A combination of exercise and diet is the best way to lose excessive body fat. Losing one to two pounds a week is a realistic goal which is best accomplished by reducing caloric intake and increasing energy expenditure. In other words, one should eat less and exercise more. Dieting alone can cause the body to believe it is being starved. In response, it tries to conserve its fat reserves by slowing down its metabolic rate and, as a result, it loses at at a slower rate.

Soldiers must consume a minimum number of calories from all the major food groups, with the calories distributed over all the daily meals including snacks. This ensures an adequate consumption of necessary vitamins and minerals. A male soldier who is not under medical supervision when dieting requires a caloric intake of at least 1 ,500; women require at least 1,200 calories. Soldiers should avoid diets that fail to meet these criteria.

Trying to lose weight with fad diets and devices or by skipping meals does not work for long-term fat loss, since weight lost through these practices is mostly water and lean muscle tissue, not fat. Losing fat safely takes time and patience. There is no quick and
easy way to improve body composition.

The soldier who diets and does not exercise loses not only fat but muscle tissue as well. This can negatively affect his physical readiness. Not only does exercise burn calories, it helps the body maintain its useful muscle mass, and it may also help keep the body’s metabolic rate high during dieting.

Fat can only be burned during exercise if oxygen is used. Aerobic exercise, which uses lots of oxygen, is the best type of activity for burning fat. Aerobic exercises include jogging, walking, swimming, bicycling, cross-country skiing, rowing, stair climbing, exercise to music, and jumping rope. Anaerobic activities, such as sprinting or lifting heavy weights, burn little, if any, fat.

Exercise alone is not the best way to lose body fat, especially in large amounts. For an average-sized person, running or walking one mile burns about 100 calories. Because there are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat, he needs to run or walk 35 miles if pure fat were being burned. In reality, fat is seldom the only source of energy used during aerobic exercise. Instead, a mixture of both fats and carbohydrates is used. As a result, most people would need to run or walk over 50 miles to burn one pound of fat.

A combination of proper diet and aerobic exercise is the proven way to lose excessive body fat. Local dietitians and nutritionists can help soldiers who want to lose weight by suggesting safe and sensible diet programs. In addition, the unit’s MFT can design tailored exercise programs which will help soldiers increase their caloric expenditure and maintain their lean body mass.


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